20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox .
R4 . COLOR . 107 mins .
MA15+ . PAL
Note:We decided to provide you folks with a different twist to the review. All the Melbourne based DVDnet reviewers got together at Trevor Lees Audio for a very special night of reviewing. How could we refuse a 92 inch screen, air conditioning and the original Budweiser neon sign from Terminator 2? (Ed: Yes Trev, we did like it, now enough about it already!). What we wanted to do was to present this review with as many different opinions of the disc as possible and it also gave us a chance to get to know each other a little more. We hope to bring you more group reviews in the future.
Your clothes, give them to me.
The Terminator was James Cameron's first REAL film. He did work on Piranha II prior to this effort, but he doesn't seem to promote his association with that 'mistake' too much. Having now cemented his status as a perfectionist of a director with signature trademarks that his fans always look for in his movies, it is The Terminator that really provided the foundation of what was to come.
The signature nuclear weapons themes, the use of actors such as Biehn, Paxton and Henriksen; the attention to detail in his plot; the action, adventure and suspense and the dialogue he wrote that made Arnold's one-liners come to life are Cameron at his best. The movie is very simplistic in its execution, but that simplicity is what makes it work and why it is such a superior movie to the sequel.
It is 1984 and a time-bubble surrounded by flashes of lightning brings forth a man built like a tank, a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a killing machine with a deadly mission; to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). Her only saviour is Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a marine who has also been sent back in time to protect her.
It seems that Sarah holds the key to the future of mankind. Her son is the leader of the resistance in a future ruled by machines, but these machines know that the only way to save their future is to kill their enemy in the past. Now it's a race for Reese to get to Sarah before the Terminator and to convince her that she is the mother of the future.
This exciting premise brings to the screen the most terrifying villain ever created. This is Schwarzenegger's best role and the one which catapulted him from a record breaking body builder into Hollywood's biggest action star of the '80s and '90s. There hasn't been anyone since that has had a screen presence as prominent as the Austrian Oak.
It was merely his desire to be the Terminator after reading the script that landed him the role. He was to be cast as the hero with a more sleek and elusive persona being visualised for the killing machine. Actors such as Lance Henriksen and even O.J. Simpson were being considered for the role. Could you imagine this movie in a different combination of roles and actors? Impossible indeed, which is why The Terminator works so well, as the supporting cast are a great compliment for Arnold to methodically sprout his lines like "The Oozie nain millamita" and to kill everyone in the path between him and his target.
"That Terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."
In the opening scene, it is obvious that this is a different print from the original as the subtitle tracks are used in place of the opening text crawl. It is a little 'in your face' when it appears as it seems Van Ling thought it was a good move to use this 'feature' of DVD. If you've got your player forced to leave subtitles off, then you're going to miss it. The disc we reviewed was dual-coded for regions 2 & 4, so this is what the UK folks can also expect.
Eye see you.
The best way for us to explain the transfer to you is to let our reviewers do the talking themselves. These comments are all discrete and unbiased, even if we were in the same room at the time. My how opinions vary, yet still remain consistent.
I have to say I wasn't expecting miracles, what with the age of the material and the iffy look of the image to start with, but I was still more than just a little happy with the final result, nonetheless. There's a lot of black on show throughout the film, whether in scenes shot at night or just dim, dark settings such as apartments and the final factory showdown. Although these blacks don't seem to contain much detail, they are at least very solid and clean. Detail is sufficiently high and although the picture source occasionally contains sections that seem a little diffuse, at other times there are close-ups that reveal fantastic detail. This slight unevenness also applies to the colour rendering, where the odd bit of solarisation is apparent, then for the most part appears spot on. As you've read, we were lucky enough to have some fantastic equipment to use for this review and all flaws aside, this gear did nothing but show off the transfer in the best possible light.
When I heard this DVD for the first time, I realised that people were either going to love it or hate it. There's no doubt that the original audio would have had its limitations and failings, and it was probably a given that it would have been spruced up a bit for a special edition such as we have here.
The problem is when the enhanced sections kick in (usually with gunfire and directional effects) difference in the tonal qualities and range between the standard audio and the enhanced audio is so large that it seems almost like two different movies at times. Did this ruin the experience for me? No, I can't say that it did. I still walked away from the movie happy with the end result overall, and glad that we'd been given something better than a mono transfer. But I'd be interested to hear what you think about it once it's released.
"I said it's just a jump to the left and then a step to the right".
We had the original Image R1 non-anamorphic DVD on hand to compare, and the large projected picture really gave us a chance to examine the image on both discs thoroughly.
The print used for this transfer is a recent one which gives credit to science fiction author Harlan Ellison, who filed a lawsuit against Cameron for plagiarism. Grain is easily apparent, due to the cheap film stock used and the primitive effects work involving rear projection and optical compositing. The level of grain makes the film look more like a high-quality 16mm production such as Leaving Las Vegas as opposed to the glossy 35mm of modern blockbusters. It's hard to fault the transfer for this, though, as it's an essential part of the look of the film and present in all versions. To my mind, the film would not be nearly as convincing without this raw quality. Cameron chose a grainy film stock again when he shot Aliens in 1986.
Colour, while not 'natural', is obviously superior on the R4 disc, but overall the picture on both DVDs is remarkably similar. Sharpness is decent, but obviously far from the standards of an A-list title, and there is some grit and grime in certain scenes. On the positive side, no MPEG artefacting was obvious whatsoever, which is excellent considering how difficult it must have been to encode the grainy image.
Overall, I consider this an excellent transfer of a reasonable print, and I doubt you'll see better.
The audio is where I get a chance to be stroppy! To my mind, a DVD (especially a Special Edition) is a chance for the filmmakers to preserve their film for future generations. Obviously a lot of people were clamouring for a 5.1 remix of The Terminator, but this disc leaves the original theatrical mono mix out entirely, which simply isn't good enough. If somebody wants to hear the way the film actually sounded when it came out, even just for purposes of comparison, they'll have to get a copy on VHS, laserdisc or the original R1 DVD.
Cameron didn't want a mono mix originally, but the cash-strapped studio weren't willing to fork out for a Dolby Surround mix for what they saw as a cheap B-movie. Because of the low budget, most of the foley effects were badly recorded, the gunshots especially. Many of the effects seem to have been either re-recorded or seriously tweaked to push up the level of bass, and dynamics are greatly improved over the original mono mix - you can shake the walls with this disc! Action scenes are genuinely exciting and involving.
The downside is that the 5.1 mix really doesn't go far enough - the remix has simply spread the original elements around the soundstage. In quieter scenes, it's obvious that there's been no attempt made to draw the audience into a different sonic environment. Instead of a convincing wrap-around effect with subtle reverberation and echos, mono sounds are panned crudely into the surround channels. At no point did I feel like I was anywhere but in a room listening to speakers.
Adding to the problem is the generally flatly recorded dialogue and music stems. The end credit music sounds particularly dated, with poor fidelity. Sounds are frequently distorted. Poor choices in sound design distract; effects jump from speaker to speaker following changes in camera angle. A talented mixer such as Gary Rydstrom wouldn't make these basic mistakes, but this special edition doesn't list the people responsible for the remix.
Don't get me wrong, the soundtrack isn't terrible, but you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear, and those expecting modern standards from a 16-year old low-budget film deserve to be disappointed.
The video quality varies throughout the film. Very early on, especially the scenes of the future where the resistance fighters are attacking the machines, there is a lot of very visible and distracting dust and scratches on the original source material. Given the size of the screen and the quality of the projector we were using, this may not be as obvious on a TV set. These source material problems surface one or two more times towards the end of the film, but not anywhere near as badly. The video quality during 85-90% of the film is more than acceptable for something of its age. The special effects are the other place where video quality takes a serious nosedive. The effects, although very good for their time (1984), are very obvious and do not blend with the background very well. Shots with the metallic skeletal Terminator walking are the ones that exhibit this the most.
We listened to various sections of the original release before we put the new release on. A mono soundtrack vs. a full 5.1 soundtrack is a very, very different experience. I LOVE the soundtrack, and find it to be very detailed. The scene which most stands out for "detail" is where the Terminator finds Kyle and Sarah at the motel. The shot is from the Terminator point of view, and the dog that is madly barking at him moves slowly from the centre speaker, across to the right and then slowly towards the back right as the Terminator walks away from it.
The sub gives a very full rumble when appropriate, indicating a good use of the LFE channel (Ed: There was no sub used. Trev assures me that the LFE channel was routed to the mains. Yes, I was surprised with the deep lows as well). The only audio annoyance for me is that some of the effects are kind of cheesy (the laser fire and lightning sounds in particular), but that is a fault of the '80s in general and not of the audio track itself.
With a budget of just under $7 million, there is not a lot to go around and the victims in this case were the film stock and soundtrack that had to give way to the business of special effects creation.
The film stock in this case is pretty ordinary, but comes up surprisingly well in this DVD incarnation. The only other version previously available was the region 1 release and in comparison we seem to have a slightly cleaner print with a lot more saturation, making the original version look faded and pale in comparison.
Another noticable difference here is that some of the electricity/lightning effects shots have been cleaned up considerably, giving them clearer definition. The original was marred by a thick blue haze that washed out a lot of the image in these scenes, reducing the amount of detail considerably. This version, even with the cleaner look, is still marred by the original optical effects retaining a lot of film dirt and noise. Nothing can be done about this I'm afraid.
This is also the first anamorphic transfer of the movie. Combined with the PAL resolution of region 4 DVD we have an image that is as good as we're likely to get.
As for the audio, the original recording was a low budget mono with not much dynamic range at all. This special edition release features a new 5.1 remaster with brand new foley effects recorded specifically for this DVD release. What this means is that you're going to get a full surround sound experience with the best mix today's sound engineers can provide, coupled with some deep thundering bass.
Herein lies the problem. The film looks too old and doesn't quite match up with the new audio. It also seems as if the effort put in to remaster the soundtrack was considerable, but still needed a bit more to make it all gel properly. The original mono dialogue tracks are retained so the soundfield collapses slightly, but it's still a much better effort than some previous mono to 5.1 remasters I've heard.
The futuristic musical score provided by Brad Fiedel is the movie's heartbeat, rising in tone with the pursuant Terminator and settling in-between. This too has been remastered to take advantage of the soundstage with various beats panning between left and right and front and rear speakers.
The new surround remix and the increased dynamic range with deep low frequencies will keep 5.1 fans entertained, but those of you wanting the original mono soundtrack intact need to look elsewhere as this special edition release doesn't have it.
Special Edition main menu
The Special Edition release is spread across two discs, with the movie and the DVD-ROM content on a DVD-9 and the documentaries on a second DVD-5 disc. Van Ling, producer of the Ultimate DVD Edition of Terminator 2 in region 1 has produced a complete set of extras for this movie, given the lack of availability of archival footage.
In general, both discs feature animated menus based around a model 101 endoskeleton. Everything from transition video to menu screens are all fully 3D animated to give a very nice interactive experience. To top this off, the menus are also 16:9 enhanced and the audio is encoded in Linear PCM format, giving it some nice dynamics.
DVD ROM content - Utilising the PC Friendly software for both PC and MAC formats, we are given three complete scripts: the original shooting script, the 1983 fourth draft and the final treatment. Of these, the final treatment is laid out in a fashion whereby you can select a chapter, have the script in a scrollable window on the right and the movie itself playing in a picture-in-picture square on the top left. A nice little way to follow the action.
Disc 2: Still Material
James Cameron's Original 1982 Treatment
James Cameron Artwork 23 screens of some incredible sketches done by Cameron himself. He also did the sketch of a nude Kate Winslet in Titanic. Yes that was his hand doing the drawing at the time and not DiCaprio's.
Production Photographs - 30 screens of various stages of production.
Stan Winston: Terminator and Makeup Effects - 22 pages looking at the creation of the Terminator endoskeleton and the makeup effects for Arnold.
Fantasy II: Visual Effects - 25 pages showcasing the work involved in creating the future and various other second unit productions.
Publicity Materials - 16 pages of posters and other such material.
The Making of the Terminator - Arnold and Cameron take a retrospective trip down memory lane about how the movie came about and various other titbits normally found within a director's commentary, but condensed to just over 18 minutes.
Other Voices is a one hour documentary featuring cast and crew recollections on the making of The Terminator. This is a truly fascinating behind the scenes look at this movie and one that fans will watch over and over again. There is more here than meets the eye.
Terminated Scenes - Listing the scenes here will be enough as their context within the plot is better viewed yourself. The scenes deleted are Wholesome Sarah, The Wrong Sarah, Lt Traxlers Arc, Sarah Fights Back, Making Bombs, Tickling Reese and The Factory, the last of which is pretty creepy in the context of the film.
Three Trailers are included in the form of a standard trailer, a teaser trailer and an international trailer.
Two TV Spots also make it onto the disc rounding out the video section of the extras.
The wealth of information that is condensed into the special edition is a testament to the efforts Ling put into the production of this disc and one that will keep the fans happy.
The original and the best is the only way to describe this movie. Sure the sequel had a much bigger budget and cutting edge special effects with a kicker of a soundtrack, but the first one portrays the true meaning of a Terminator, ruthless and relenting.
Bill Paxton & Brian Thompson - The Wonder Years.
Couple this fantastic thriller of a sci-fi movie with the best possible image you're going to get from the original source, a remastered 5.1 soundtrack that brings the movie into the '90s and a collection of extras that will have fans of this movie satisfied and you've got a must have DVD on your hands.
The Melbourne based DVDnet staff would like to thank Trevor Lees and Robert Fisher for providing the high end equipment used to review this disc. I know it would have been hard for them to keep the review under wraps, so we're grateful. If you want to check out the exact system we reviewed this disc on, I'm sure either Trevor or Rob would gladly give you a demo. Trevor Lees Audio can be contacted using the following details: